Archive for the ‘Playful or Cool’ Category

Fragmented Memory | Phillip Stearns

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

From Elijah Meeks’ hackathon at the Texas Digital Humanities Conference I learned about Fragmented Memory by Phillip Stearns. This is a project that takes binary data and then turns it into weaving instructions using Processing. Here is one of the large tapestries woven (and available for sale.)

If you can’t afford a $15,000 tapestry, there are also cheaper blankets here.

I’ve just put them on my Christmas list (which I can never find in time.)

Digital Humanities Quarterly: April Fools 2014

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Julia Flanders, Editor in Chief of DHQ, played a great joke on all of us for April Fools. She sent around a message that started with,

DHQ is pleased to announce an experimental new publication initiative that may be of interest to members of the DH and TEI community. As of April 1, we will no longer publish scholarly articles in verbal form. Instead, articles will be processed through Voyant Tools and summarized as a set of visualizations which will be published as a surrogate for the article. The full text of the article will be archived and will be made available to researchers upon request, with a cooling-off period of 8 weeks. Working with a combination of word clouds, word frequency charts, topic modeling, and citation networks, readers will be able to gain an essential understanding of the content and significance of the article without having to read it in full.

On April 1st, 2014, if you went to Digital Humanities Quarterly: 2014 you would have been able to access Voyant versions of the papers of the recent that are there. Stephen Davis on the TEI list logically took it a step further and wrote that he had processed the message itself through Voyant and that the “derived Cirrus word cloud really does say as much (as) anyone need to know about DHQ’s new approach!” Alas the word cloud wasn’t included, so I generated one and here it is.


What else is there to say?

A Short History of the Highrise

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

The New York Times and the National Film Board (of Canada) have collaborated on a great interactive A Short History of the Highrise. The interactive plays as a documentary that you can stop at any point to explore details. The director, Katerina Cizek, on the About page talks about their inspiration:

I was inspired by the ways storybooks have been reinvented for digital tablets like the iPad. We used rhymes to zip through history, and animation and interactivity to playfully revisit a stunning photographic collection and reinterpret great feats of engineering.

For the NFB this is part of their larger Highrise many-media project.

Building Inspector by NYPL Labs

Monday, November 25th, 2013

The New York Public Library has another cool digital project called the Building Inspector. They are crowdsourcing the training and correction of a building recognition tool that is combing through old maps. You see a portion of a map with red dots outlining a building and you click “Yes” (if the outline is correct), “No” (if it is wrong), and “Fix” (if it is close, but needs to be fixed.)

They also have a neat subtitle to the project, “Kill Time. Make History.”

The Wedding Data: What Marriage Notices Say About Social Change

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Reading a collection of stories in the Atlantic about women and technology I came across a story about The Wedding Data: What Marriage Notices Say About Social Change. This article talks about Weding Crunchers – a database of New York Times wedding announcements since 1981 that you can search in an environment much like Google’s Ngram viewer. In the chart above you can see that I searched for different professions. Note how “teacher” takes off, probably because of the popularity of Teach for America.

I can’t help wondering if we are seeing the emergence of a genre of text visualization – the diachronic word viewer. This type of visualization depends on an associations between orthographic words (the actual words in texts) and concepts.

Existential Emergency Phone

Friday, May 17th, 2013


Existential Phone

The Maker community is getting around to important philosophical kits. See the Existential Emergency Phone.

Thanks to Guy for this.

The Cube at QUT – world’s biggest multitouch installation

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Luciano sent me this link to a stunning multipoint touch installation at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, The Cube at QUT – world’s biggest multitouch installation. I like how they have the touch at ground level, but the screen extends up.

I note that the Cube folk also have a Lego Education Learning Centre. I’m doubly envious.

Textal – Text Analysis for your mobile

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Textal is a moble app (for the iPhone) that lets you “explore the words used in your favourite book, document, website, or twitter stream.” It looks beautiful, but I can’t find it on the app store. I like the idea of having something like this for my iPad on which I read more and more.

Visual Music

Friday, December 14th, 2012

In Dublin I heard DAH student Maura McDonnell present on Visual Music (her blog), which is her PdD research area. Visual Music is one term among many of experiments in light and sound and her blog is a nice collection of resources on this new media form.

From her blog I learned that there is a also a Center for Visual Music that has documentation and an online store.

Maura’s own work can be seen online, see Silk Chroma. The image above is taken from the Vimeo video.

Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

I’ve been meaning to blog on the video circulating of Kurt Vonnegut talking about the Shape of Stories. He describes the curves followed by popular stories like “boy meets girl” and suggests computers could even understand such simple curves. In Lapham’s Quarterly you can read the text of this lecture with illustrations. See Kurt Vonnegut at the Blackboard. In this version he asks about the value of such systems, a question which could apply equally to computer generated visualization,

The question is, does this system I’ve devised help us in the evaluation of literature? Perhaps a real masterpiece cannot be crucified on a cross of this design. How about Hamlet?

He concludes that the system doesn’t work because the truth is ambiguous. We simply don’t know in complex works (like Hamlet) if news is good or bad. Good literature is open to interpretation.

But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it’s that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth in this rise and fall here [indicates blackboard]. The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.

Many have noticed this amusing play on visualization including an infographic on, Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories:

Plot visualization from Vonnegut